TO CHEW ON: "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully." - Psalm 24:3,4
Is David saying here that we have to be perfect before we can come before God? I don't think so. But what he is saying is that to receive the benefits of worship (the "blessing from the Lord / And righteousness from the God of his salvation" - vs. 5), we need to attend to a few things:
1. "clean hands"
Not literally clean hands (though going to worship outwardly dirty could be an sign of inner disrespect), but a life lived rightly before people. Mr. Barnes explains it this way:
"The meaning is that he who would be recognized as a friend and worshiper of Yahweh must be an upright man .... The 'hands' are the instruments by which we accomplish anything; and hence to have clean hands is the equivalent of being upright" - Barnes' Notes on the Bible.
2. "a pure heart"
These two things ("clean hands, pure heart") might correctly be switched around. As Mr. Gill points out: "Though 'clean hands' are mentioned first ... yet a 'pure heart' is first in being and in order"
And how do we get that pure heart? It is by the miracle of the new birth. Mr. Gill again: "... it is God that creates a clean heart and renews a right spirit within men and purifies the heart by faith, which is led to the blood sprinkling, which purges the conscience and cleanest it from all sin" Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible.
3. "who has not lifted up his soul to an idol"
An idol—which would be a statue of gold, silver, or wood for David's readers—isn't as tangible for us. We might say it is our heart fixed and fed first and foremost on something or someone above God. Our work, our success, riches, pleasure, travel, pleasing a person or group of people—all could be idols. God's blessing goes to the one who turns his worship, delight, adoration, desire to please toward God above anything and anyone else.
4. "nor sworn deceitfully"
"Deceitfully portraying oneself"* says the footnote writer in my Bible's notes. Does this include shyness to mention my Christian loyalties when I'm in 'mixed' company? Being secretive about my age because being old isn't cool? David, despite your flowery language and the familiarity of these words, you're stepping on my toes!
PRAYER: Dear God, I fall short in each department. Help me to sit before You as You point out areas to straighten, clean up, and change. Help me to have a pure heart, out of which will flow an upright and authentic life. May my worship, adoration and delight be in You first and foremost. Amen.
MORE: "We All Bow Down" - Lenny LeBlanc & Integrity Worship Singers
* Dick Iverson, study notes on Psalm 24, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 704.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.